No Quality in Education Without Diversity, says Dutch Minister of Higher Education
At the beginning of the academic year, the Dutch minister of higher education, Ingrid Van Engelshoven, presented her “National Action Plan Diversity and Inclusion” at Leiden University, saying: “In an inclusive organisation, everyone can fully and equally participate and share in the decision-making process. I find it extremely important to create a safe learning and working environment in which all can feel at home and grow. That is what we want to stimulate with this national action plan. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that diversity is a prerequisite for quality.”
- The National Action Plan aims to improve the performance of Dutch higher education significantly by 2025 by:
- Better integrating diversity in existing policy instruments, as for example in accreditation.
- Better monitoring diversity and inclusion in HE.
- Creating an award system to create a workable policy framework.
- Integrating and supporting existing diversity plans and efforts.
- Setting up a national centre of expertise for diversity and inclusion.
This effort will be guided by an advisory committee initially chaired by Vinod Subramaniam, rector magnificus of the Vrije Universiteit.
Although the private education sector was not invited to participate in drawing up the plan, it goes without saying that Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences wholeheartedly supports the aims of this National Action Plan.
Wittenborg and Diversity
Maggie Feng, CEO of Wittenborg, said: “We are the most international institution of higher education in the Netherlands in terms of students, faculty, and support staff. Our three cornerstones are Internationalisation, Diversity and Ethics. We always have and always will be striving to offer our students a safe and inclusive environment in which to develop. Our programmes are truly geared towards international learners from the widest variety of backgrounds. As Nuffic recently stressed again, internationalisation in higher education is crucial for the Netherlands. But that can only come about if we, as universities in the widest sense, offer international learners and scholars a safe and inclusive environment in which diversity is embraced and celebrated, as it is here at Wittenborg.”
Though Wittenborg embraces the goals set out in the National Action Plan, Feng was surprised to learn that public universities of applied sciences have not. “They feel the plan is geared too much towards the research universities, and say that they are already much more diverse. But even if that were true, the National Action Plan outlines a real need in Dutch HE, and a clear way to tackle that need. At Wittenborg, we applaud all steps towards making higher education in the Netherlands more inclusive, more diverse, safer and more welcoming for all, whatever their background, sexual orientation or (non-)religion. A university should be a place where people can concentrate on their work or study in the full knowledge that they are safe and appreciated. That is what we hope to offer at Wittenborg.”
Leiden’s vice-rector, Hester Bijl, who is to succeed to the top post at Leiden in a few months, enthusiastically supported that position. Especially in these corona times, she said, inclusion, creating equal opportunities for all students, welcoming and supporting students from a non-Dutch background, students who may not have role models as they come to university from elsewhere in the world, is more important than ever.
by James Wittenborg
©Wittenborg University Press